Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

Spring Awakening
Majestic Repertory Theatre
Review by Mary LaFrance

Nicholas Lamb and Joel Ruud
Photo by Richard Brusky
Adolescent misery seems pretty universal—and it's apparently timeless as well. Spring Awakening, the Tony Award-winning rock musical, depicts the tragic clash between teenagers with raging hormones and their repressive, even abusive, Calvinistic elders. Based on an 1891 German play by Franz Wedekind, the musical (book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik) is set in 19th century Germany, but there is no expiration date on the central problems: adults who refuse to help their children to understand their emerging sexuality, then punish the youngsters' attempts to find answers on their own.

It's an unusual subject for a musical. Under Troy Heard's confident direction, however, the Majestic Repertory Theatre gives Spring Awakening a smashing production. It's difficult to imagine a more soulful take on this tale of tortured teens. Even on opening night, the staging and performances were spot-on.

This is the epitome of an ensemble production. Without exception, the group numbers are strong, well staged, and executed with a potent combination of passion and precision. Yet there are three central figures who must engage our compassion, because it is their stories that move the plot forward, and all three of these roles are performed by strong actor/singers. Callie Maxson is Wendla, whose mother flatly refuses to answer her most innocent questions about sex, and who finds herself powerfully drawn to the handsome, intelligent, and rebellious Melchior, warmly embodied by Nicholas Lamb. Maxson is a fine singer and a convincing actress who hits all the right notes, both literally and metaphorically. While Lamb is a less polished performer, he makes Melchior believable and sympathetic. The third character in this fateful troika is Moritz, Melchior's best friend who has been targeted for failure by the brutal schoolmaster and his own bullying father (both convincingly played by Michael Sullivan). Joel Ruud gives a blockbuster performance as Moritz. His face is a study in pain and need, every nerve on edge, his eyes wide with hope and fear, his hair flying in every direction, his twitchy smile begging for mercy that can't be had. Ruud is a powerful singer as well. If such a thing is possible, his performance is painfully wonderful.

Jenna Szoke's choreography makes good use of the tiny thrust stage. Front row denizens be warned—the dance numbers often spill over into the narrow aisle between stage and audience. But the dancers' immediacy enables the audience to share their energy. The live orchestra is an added delight. Due to the small space and the proximity of the musicians, however, some of the lyrics in the ensemble numbers are lost. More careful enunciation by the singers would help, with perhaps an increase in their amplification.

Abby Stroot's period costumes are fascinating in their details, and Yale Yeandel's simple set design proves efficient and versatile.

Spring Awakening, through February 10, 2019, at Majestic Repertory Theatre, 1217 S. Main St., Las Vegas NV. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 5 p.m. For tickets ($28 general admission; $15 students) and further information, visit

Wendla: Callie Maxson
Melchior: Nicholas Lamb
Moritz: Joel Ruud
Martha: Tatum Rajsky
Ilse: Lauren Tauber
Hanschen/Rupert: Keaton Delmar Johns
Ernst/Reinhold: Derek Silva
Otto/Ulbrecht: Blaise Esperancilla
Anna: Arianna Mercy
Thea: Alize Cruz
Georg/Dieter: RJ Viray
The Adult Men: Michael Sullivan
The Adult Women: Kate Sirls

Piano: Andrew Tyler
Bass: Ryne Weir
Drums: Nate Yeasley
Guitar: Americo Castillo III
Violin: Candice Chun
Cello: Yolynda Rayas

Additional Creative:
Musical Director: Andrew Tyler
Lighting Designer: Marcus Randolph